US Open | Penko wins Petko battle in brutal heat
It was a brutally hot in New York on Day 2 of the US Open, and organisers instigated for the first time a heat rule for the men alongside the women’s existing one.
Jelena Ostapenko sweated out a 6-4 4-6 7-5 win over German Andrea Petkovic to reach the second round on Tuesday, as the heat was turned up at Flushing Meadows.
Dubbed the great Penko versus Petko battle, and with the thermometer pushing towards 100 Fahrenheit (38 Celsius), the pair battled for 2 hours and 18 minutes under a ferocious sun before the 10th seeded Latvian ended the marathon on her fourth match point, sending the few remaining spectators at the Louis Armstrong Stadium court scrambling for shade.
It was very humid and also very hot, but it was the same for both of us. I mean, we had to deal with it Jelena Ostapenko
“Today [it] was a very tough match. She was fighting for every point until the end,” said Ostapenko, who will meet American Taylor Townsend in the second round. “I mean, of course conditions were difficult today.
“It was very humid and also very hot, but it was the same for both of us. I mean, we had to deal with it.”
Petkovic, having failed to qualify in Cincinnati and New Haven ahead of the US Open, arrived at Flushing Meadows well rested and the 30-year-old needed all her reserves on a sweltering day that was sure to test the fitness of every player across the sprawling USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
Ostapenko, the 2017 French Open champion, may have also benefited from an uninspiring build-up to the season’s final Grand Slam, crashing out in the first round at Montreal and Cincinnati to leave her fresh going into her opener.
Still, the conditions were so oppressive that officials implemented the extreme weather rule, sending the players off the court for 10 minutes to get out of the heat.
“I think it helped me a lot,” said Ostapenko. “I went, actually, to the bathroom and changed the outfit for the new one to be more fresh and just stayed in air conditioning.
“I think it helped me, because then I went back on court and I broke her serve straightaway.
As the score indicates, there was little to choose between the two players, Ostapenko hitting 97 winners to Petkovic’s 94.
“It’s very important to win those tough matches because first rounds are always tricky,” said Ostapenko. “It’s very important to win the match when you’re not playing your best probably. It gives you more confidence.”
Angelique Kerber, Petra Kvitova, and Caroline Garcia were among the seeded women to overcome the stifling conditions to win through to the second round of the US Open.
German 4th seed Kerber was pushed to a tiebreak in the first set in her 7-6(5) 6-3 victory over Russian Margarita Gasparyan, and was relieved to wrap up the match in straight sets.
“It was really not easy out there today,” she said. “I think it’s one of the hottest days that I remember here. But at the end, when you’re out there, you just try to survive a little bit.”
Fifth-seeded Kvitova took just 1 hour and 12 minutes to seal a 6-1 6-4 victory over Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer.
The Czech is famously not a fan of extreme heat and has struggled in New York in the past, although she has made the quarter-finals in two of the past three years.
“I knew it’s going to be very hot but I couldn’t imagine how horrible the heat was, so it was pretty difficult conditions,” she said.
“But I just felt good from the beginning when I played a really good game. I really tried hard not to play a third.”
Garcia also made light work of her opening round match with a comfortable 6-2 6-2 win over England’s Johanna Konta.
The French sixth seed progresses to face Puerto Rican Monica Puig, who matched Australian Daria Gavrilova’s Monday feat of a ‘double bagel’ in dispatching Switzerland’s Stefanie Voegele 6-0 6-0.
Belarus’ World No 20 Aryna Sabalenka got off to a good start by defeating Danielle Collins of the United States 6-0 4-6 6-4 for her first main-draw win in New York City.
On paper, this was one of the most evenly matched pairings of the first round: the No 26 seed against the World No 37, and even though the contest was one-sided for the first half hour, it quickly developed into a tense battle between two equally combustible players, who wear their emotions on their sleeves.
Sabalenka stormed through the first set in just 23 minutes, flashing the sort of brilliance that saw her win the Connecticut Open in New Haven last week and reach the Cincinnati semi-finals last month.
The Belarusian, who was part of the Fed Cup team that reached the 2017 finals against the USA, did not drop a point on her first serve until the ninth game of the match, frustrating Collins, who at one point slammed her racket to the ground after failing to convert a 40-0 lead.
Sabalenka, who turned 20 in May, neither looked like a player contesting her first US Open main-draw match nor a player who had lost in the first round of all three other majors this year, but her lack of big-match experience began to show once Collins started landing her groundstrokes, particularly on the forehand wing.
Collins finally got on the board at 0-1 in the second set, 33 minutes into the match, and she added to that with a break in the very next game when Sabalenka committed her fifth double fault.
The American, who lost the first seven games and won the next five, failed to serve out the set at 5-2, but she did tie the match at the next opportunity to send the first-round battle into a decider.
An early break gave the 23-year-old Collins, who reached the semi-finals of the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, California, in July, the lead for the first time.
Sabalenka then won four consecutive games to move within two games of the second round, but Collins hung tough once more, breaking at 4-2 to get back on serve.
The talented Belarusian made it 5-3 when Collins launched a forehand long, but she standout saved a match point after scrambling to the net and putting away an overhead after a well-placed lob.
Sabalenka finally prevailed at the one-hour, 52-minute mark, flicking an angled backhand cross-court that was too fine for Collins to retrieve.
Earlier, her teammates, Belarus’ World No 72 Vera Lapko saw off Ukraine’s Kateryna Bondarenko, 6-3 6-3, while Victoria Azarenka, currently ranked 79, proved too strong for Slovakia’s Viktoria Kuzmova, winning through 6-3 7-5, and Aliaksandra Sasnovich (No 33) defeated Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic, 2-6 6-1 6-2.
Other seeded players to advance to the second round included 11th-seeded Russian Daria Kasaktina, Dutch 13th seed Kiki Bertens and Japan’s 20th seed Naomi Osaka.
American 24th seed CoCo Vandeweghe crashed out 6-2 7-6(3) to Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium, while Canadian qualifier Eugenie Bouchard won a match at the US Open for the first time since 2015, the year she withdrew from the tournament after a fall in the locker room left her with a concussion.
In another bizarre incident, France’s Alize Cornet noticed she was wearing her shirt backwards during her match against Sweden’s Johanna Larsson of Sweden, so she corrected it and got a code violation and US Open officials were subsequently branded as sexist.
Cornet was captured on video as she walked back to the court, quickly pulled her shirt up, then turned away from cameras to place the top on the correct way round, exposing her sports bra in the 10 second clip.
The chair umpire punished Cornet with a code violation because the WTA rulebook states that female players are not permitted to change attire while on the court. Male players, however, are permitted to do so.
To add to Cornet’s distress, she lost 6-4 3-6 6-2 to the Swede.